Saturday, September 16, 2017

Puttin' On the Ritz



A base in Greenwich Village on a recent trip to New York City altered my perspective of the ostensible artistic and economic capital of the world.  Aside from the omnipresent scent of urine, there was nothing I didn’t like about the neighborhood (not that I could afford even the least expensive items in many of the rarified shops.)  Finding the willpower to sleep when renowned jazz clubs were within a 15-minute walk was a real challenge.

I didn’t catch Bill Charlap this time around, but the sophisticated tone of the pianist’s new album Uptown, Downtown with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington reflects the urbane ambiance I encountered at tony venues including the Blue Note.  (Here's my footage of a fancy Eddie Palmieri show.)

The host at Mezzrow may have mistaken me for David Lynch when he positioned me at a prime table for a solo concert by Sullivan Fortner even though I was wearing a ratty t-shirt.  I felt like I was at the top of the world as people decked out for fashion shoots and residents of luxury condos envied my spot within arm’s reach of the engaging young pianist.


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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I laud the Black Dolphin at Plastic Sax.

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Don Williams has died.

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Hüsker Dü was one of my favorite bands in the mid-’80s.  Grant Hart’s warm songs provided vital balance on classic albums like Flip Your Wig.  Hart died Wednesday.

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Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry died last week.  Montgomery Gentry headlined a concert at Providence Medical Center Amphitheater in Bonner Springs a few weeks ago.

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I caught Sheer Mag at Kaiju in Louisville last week.

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Hearing Sammy Hagar’s “Heavy Metal” on KSHE while driving through St. Louis this week made me giddy, but played-out tracks by Jefferson Starship, Pink Floyd Cheap Trick, Tom Petty and Yes just made me sad.

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Instant Karma’s Trying To Find My Mind is RIYL the Pretty Things, Kansas City garage-rock bands, Wreckless Eric.

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Van Hunt’s terrific Popular acts as an accidental Prince tribute.

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Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real’s self-titled release  is a fine outlaw country-ish album.  RIYL: the Grateful Dead, legacies, Sturgill Simpson.

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I admire Matt Wilson’s Honey and Salt: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Carl Sandburg, but I don’t necessarily like it.  RIYL: Ken Nordine, beatniks, Lord Buckley.

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A pithy jam band?  That’s the premise of Hard Working Americans.  We’re All In This Together is RIYL Todd Snider, barroom blues, Widespread Panic.  Here’s the title track.

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In much the same way I crave junk food, I derive enormous pleasure from Playboi Carti’s self-titled mixtape. Here’s “New Choppa”.

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Much of Living Colour’s Shade is stunning.  Here’s the band’s cover of “Who Shot Ya?”

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My lack of enthusiasm for Malija’s Instinct is further proof that I’m not automatically in the tank for every highly-touted Euro-jazz album.  RIYL: Paul Desmond, cold handshakes, Phronesis.

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Mike Stern Trip is an appealing time machine.  RIYL: the Brecker Brothers, jazz fusion circa 1980, We Want Miles.

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Krystian Zimerman’s Franz Schubert: Piano Sonatas has helped to center me in recent days.

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Antibalas’ Where the Gods Are in Peace is more of the same.  That’s a good thing.  RIYL Fela, celestial jams, Lettuce.

(Original image by There Stands the Glass.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Concert Review: Rich the Factor, the Popper and Don Juan at 7th Heaven


“I’m KC!”  I don’t wear Kansas City-branded t-shirts and I’ve never used a #kcpride hashtag.  Yet as the Popper performed his latest anthem about Kansas City in a parking lot on Troost Avenue on Labor Day, I realized that I may be Kansas City’s truest music enthusiast.  Not only did I begin documenting my longstanding devotion to the sound that made the town famous at Plastic Sax in 2007, I have concurrently chronicled the rap scene that’s produced the only other hometown sound to make a significant global impression during that span.

In the four-and-a-half hours I spent at the free outdoor event sponsored by 7th Heaven, Rich the Factor, the Popper and Don Juan were among the prominent artists who expressed appreciation for their longstanding partnership with the scrappy retailer.  Bucking music industry trends, CDs are sold alongside the apparel lines of Kansas City rap heavyweights at the store.

As I wrote in a 2016 album review, Rich the Factor is “a veritable legend on the streets of the city’s urban core.” He affirmed his status during an auspicious headlining performance.  Don Juan performed “I Am the Street” after boasting that “I started that Tech N9ne sh*t” and reminding onlookers of his affiliation with the late Mac Dre.  Rush Borda, Chauncey Clyde and the teen duo Candii Gyrlz were among the other notable acts at the makeshift rooftop stage that validated my obsessive dedication to the most essential Kansas City music.

I posted video snippets of sets by Rich the Factor, Don Juan and The Popper to my Instagram account.  I also documented 7th Heaven’s Taste of Troost party in 2009.


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I named the forthcoming Gorillaz show at the Sprint Center my concert of the month for The Kansas City Star and Ink magazine.

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The Project H is KCUR’s Band of the Week.  My on-air segment will appear online in this space.

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I write weekly concert previews for The Kansas City Star.

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I recount my experience at the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival in Tompkins Square Park at Plastic Sax.

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I hope the reports that the Kansas City musician Ben Juneau has died are incorrect.

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Walter Becker of Steely Dan has died.

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Holger Czukay of Can has died.

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I opted to attend Noise Fest at Davey’s rather than the Kansas City Irish Fest at Crown Center last weekend.  Most of the acts I saw at the shambolic event sponsored by Leavenworth’s Big Pharma Records were merely uninspired dudes who manipulated feedback and static.  Only Pussyvision’s riveting freakout redeemed my break with tradition.

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A$AP Mob’s Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy is rude, childish and without any redeeming social value.  Needless to say, I'm all about it.  Here’s “Perry Aye”.

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The members of Algiers and I clearly like a lot of the same records.  It’s odd, consequently, that I can’t get into The Underside of Power.  RIYL Solomon Burke, futuristic gospel, Elvis Presley.  Here’s the title track.

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Eric Revis’ astounding Sing Me Some Cry is RIYL Ken Vandermark, temerity, David Ware.

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While it’s not exactly complex, Lil Uzi Vert’s Luv Is Rage 2 is shockingly multidimensional.  Color me (very) impressed.  Here’s ”How To Talk”.

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New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies turned my world around in 1983.  Even with its overt tributes to Suicide and David Bowie, I hear LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream as a heartfelt homage to the seminal release.

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If Tyler, The Creator is really as miserable as he sounds on Flower Boy, he’s likely going to be utterly despondent when he's 50.  RIYL: cranks, Earl Sweatshirt, misanthropes.  Here’s ”Who Dat Boy”.

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I can’t be sure that I’ve listened to Ozuna’s ridiculously slight Odisea.  His reggaeton is the wispiest music I’ve heard.  Here’s “Una Flor”.

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I don’t loathe Portico Quartet’s Art in the Age of Automation because the ensemble has shifted away from jazz.  I simply can’t stand the sound of soulless ringtones.

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P.O.S’s verses on Shredders’ ”Flipping Cars” are stupendous.

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The gratuitous volume employed by Mogwai at a Matador Records showcase at SXSW in 2001 came just shy of making my ears literally bleed.  I was unable to flee because I was working the show.  I’ve held a grudge against the Scottish band ever since.  Even so, I’ve fallen hard for Every Country’s Sun.

(Original image of Rich the Factor by There Stands the Glass.)